effects of chocolate

What are the effects of chocolate on the body? And how powerful are they? There's no doubt that eating chocolate affects us, or it wouldn't be the most popular food in the world.

Read on...

[Note: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional. None of the information presented below is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, medical advice.]


"I love you." (Huh?)
Legend has it that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.

  • According to a study reported by the BBC, melting chocolate in your mouth produces an increase in brain activity and heart rate that is more intense than passionate kissing. And, the increased intensity lasted 4x longer than kissing.
  • Chocolate contains Tryptophan--a chemical the brain uses to make serotonin.
    Serotonin transmits nerve impulses from one cell to another.
    High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy.
  • Chocolate also contains Phenylethylamine.
    Phenylethylamine, also found in the brain, is responsible for raising blood pressure and increasing heart rate.
    When Phenylethylamine is released into our systems, strong emotions like passion take over our moods.

There is no proof that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, but keep giving those gifts of chocolate anyway!

Chocolate is stimulating. (Ooooh.)
A common misconception about the effects of chocolate is that it contains lots of caffeine.

  • Theobromine is actually the active ingredient in chocolate, not caffeine.
  • Some chocolate products have added caffeine, but it doesn't occur naturally.
  • The two stimulants are related, but they are very different chemicals with different properties and effects.
  • Chocolate contains 0.5-2.7% theobromine.
    Cocoa powders can contain up to at least 10% theobromine.
    White chocolate contains only trace amounts.
  • And theobromine is almost 1/3 more effective than codeine at preventing persistent coughing.

Cocoa or dark chocolate is calming. (But, you just said...)
Scientists claim that chocolate, when consumed in moderate amounts, can lower blood pressure.

  • Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation.
  • This is mainly caused by a particular substance present in cocoa called epicatechin.
  • Some studies have observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming dark chocolate daily.

Dark chocolate prolongs your life. (Woo-hoo! More time for chocolate!)
This is one of the more ambiguous effects of chocolate, but a welcome one, nonetheless.

  • One-third of the fat in chocolate comes in the form of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid.
  • Unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
  • Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels.
    Some studies find that it could actually lower them.
  • This means dark chocolate may actually lower the risk of a heart attack.

For more on this, see the Health Benefits of Chocolate

effects of chocolate


Chocolate can cause acne. (Not really.)
Again, a myth about the effects of chocolate.

  • This is a popular belief, but it's not supported by scientific studies.
  • Studies show that it's the high glycemic nature of certain foods, like sugar, corn syrup, and other simple carbohydrates, that cause acne. Chocolate itself has a low glycemic index.

Chocolate can cause obesity. (So can a lot of other things.)
One of the more negative, but, unfortunately true, effects of chocolate.

  • Unconstrained consumption of large quantities of chocolate can increase the risk of obesity (without an equal increase in activity).
  • Raw chocolate is high in cocoa butter, a fat which is removed during chocolate refining, then added back in varying proportions during the manufacturing process.
  • Manufacturers may add other fats, sugars, and milk as well, all of which increase the caloric content of chocolate.
  • Obesity is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

Chocolate poisoning? (Yikes!)
Sounds like one of the worst effects of chocolate, but it's rare and pertains to animals much more than to humans.
  • Chocolate poisoning (or Theobromine poisoning) is an adverse reaction to the alkaloid theobromine.
  • Theobromine is found in chocolate, tea, cola beverages, acai berries, and some other foods.
  • Cacao beans contain about 1.2% theobromine by weight, while processed chocolate generally has smaller amounts.
  • The amount found in highly refined chocolate candies is much lower than that of dark chocolate or unsweetened baking chocolate.
  • Dark chocolate has 2 to 5 times more theobromine than milk chocolate.
The amount of theobromine found in chocolate is small enough that humans can safely eat large quantities of chocolate.

But, chocolate is toxic to many animals because of their inability to metabolize the chemical.

  • In sufficient amounts, chocolate is toxic to animals such as horses, dogs, parrots, small rodents, and cats because they are unable to metabolize theobromine effectively.
  • If they eat chocolate, the theobromine will remain in their bloodstreams for up to 20 hours.
  • This can cause epileptic seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding, and eventually death for these animals.
  • The most common victims of theobromine poisoning are dogs, for which it can be fatal.
  • Cats and especially kittens are even more sensitive. (But cats are less likely to eat chocolate since they can't taste sweetness.)
  • It's even more potent for horses, so its use is prohibited in horse racing.

Chocolate allergy?(Some effects of chocolate are just unthinkable!)
Cacao allergies are possible, but so rare that they're virtually nonexistent in recent medical literature.

Here are some allergens and additives to look for with chocolate:

MILK: Almost all chocolate contains some milk.
Bittersweet/semisweet and dark chocolate contain the smallest amounts of milk.
~There are dairy-free chocolates on the market.

PEANUTS and TREE NUTS: Some chocolates are filled with peanut butter or whole nuts.
~Manufacturers make their non-nut chocolates on the same maufacturing line as their nut-containing chocolates. So, even chocolates that don't include nuts as ingredients can still be problematic for people with peanut tree nut allergies.
~You can look for label indications like "manufactured in a dedicated nut-free facility" or buy chocolate from nut-free manufacturers.

WHEAT and GLUTEN: Flour or wheat starch are often use as a binder in filled chocolates.
~Crisped rice in chocolate can be a problem because it often includes barley malt.
~There are gluten-free chocolatiers.

SOY: Chocolate usually includes an emulsifier to keep it solid at room temperature.
~The most common emulsifier in chocolate is soy lecithin.
~This can cause problems for people with soy allergies.

CORN: High fructose corn syrup is used in some chocolate brands.
~Plus, some chocolate manufacturers may use corn on production lines.
~Corn is more prevalent in white chocolate. CAFFEINE: Contrary to popular belief, chocolate is extremely low in caffeine.
~One ounce of milk chocolate contains only 6mg of caffeine.
~In comparison, a 2-oz. double espresso can range from 45-100mg.
~Dark chocolate has more caffeine than milk chocolate.

chocolate addiction

Chocolate addiction? (Hmm...)
Is this really one of the "negative" effects of chocolate?

  • Generally, researchers don't regard "chocolate addiction" as a true addiction.
  • The combination of chocolate's components + mood swings/hormones are used to explain chocolate cravings.
  • Some of the mood-altering substances found in chocolate are also in other, less appealing foods (like broccoli).
  • When we eat chocolate, serotonin is released, making us feel happier. (That's the only excuse I need!)

Chocolate is the most frequently craved food in women.
Many women describe themselves as "chocoholics".
In many women, the craving occurs on a monthly cycle.

[Note: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional. None of the information presented above is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, medical advice.]

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